Infection in the Camp
Chapters 13-14 are some of the most detailed portions of the book of Leviticus and they deal solely with the disease of leprosy. At first glance, it appears to be a topic that has little to do with us today. Evidently, it was a huge problem in their day. Due to the nature of their time spent wandering in the wilderness, exposed to all kinds of heat, infection, insects, and skin disorders, it was very important that they be able to spot infectious diseases promptly. The last thing they needed was for a disease to spread throughout the camp. It could be devastating. Leprosy was greatly feared. It was an infectious disease characterized by disfiguring skin sores, nerve damage, and progressive debilitation. People usually didn’t die from leprosy, but from other diseases contracted as a result of it. Because it attacked the nerves, people infected by leprosy were prone to burning themselves in fires or cutting themselves and not knowing it. Those wounds would then get infected leading to further issues. All forms of the disease eventually cause nerve damage in the arms and legs, which causes sensory loss in the skin and muscle weakness. People with long-term leprosy may lose the use of their hands or feet due to repeated injury resulting from lack of sensation.
So you can see why this was serious. And why God has Moses spend so much time warning the people about it. They were not to take the presence of this disease in their midst lightly. Which makes me think that leprosy is representative of the sin that so often exists in our lives and in our faith communities. It begins subtly. Like leprosy, it starts small and inauspiciously. But it is no less dangerous. Even small sins usually lead to more significant ones. Leprosy spread. So does sin. The Israelites were to take it seriously. We are to take sin seriously.
These instructions regarding leprosy given to Moses by God Himself are full of details regarding not only the identification of the disease, but for the cleansing of it. As long as someone had the disease they were to remain apart from the rest of the camp. They were separated, living in isolation and outside the rest of the community. Leprosy separated. So does sin. It is a serious, spreading infection that takes its toll not just on the individual, but on the community at large. Paul took sin seriously and warned about it. “If anyone is causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with that person” (Titus 3:10 NLT). “And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things that are contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people” (Romans 16:17-18 NLT). In regards to the Corinthians believers, Paul was pretty blunt. “I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you, something so evil that even the pagans don’t do it. I am told that you have a man in your church who is living in sin with his father’s wife. And you are so proud of yourselves! Why aren’t you mourning in sorrow and shame? And why haven’t you removed this man from your fellowship?” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2 NLT). Sin was serious to Paul. He knew how to spot it and he knew how to deal with it. Because he knew how dangerous it was to the body of Christ. Just as leprosy was dangerous to the people of God in Moses day. It could spread. It could wreak havoc. It could destroy from within. So it had to be dealt with. Just as sin should be dealt with today. In our individual lives and within the faith community. We are not to tolerate it or take it lightly. It is dangerous. We are to lovingly confront the sin in our camp. “My dear brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back again, you can be sure that the one who brings that person back will save that sinner from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins” (James 5:19-20 NLT).
Father, help us to fear sin just as much as the Israelites feared leprosy. Help us to take it seriously and see it as dangerous in our midst. Give us a boldness to confront one another lovingly, but persistently about the presence of sin in our lives. So that we can enjoy forgiveness and cleansing. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men